“We know that the transition from secondary school to a research university is often perceived as very difficult, and see it as our responsibility to prepare the students.”, explains Jorian Waleson, coordinator for the programme. “The Pre-academic Programme isn’t necessarily focused on the contents of specific bachelor programmes, but rather we call it a personal development programme”.
For Jim Bakker and Refkka Khalil, the programme was an exciting start to their new studies. Refkka is transitioning to university life straight from secondary school, but Jim previously studied in a University of Applied Sciences. “I signed up for the programme because I wanted to make a head start to my new studies, and meet new people before the academic year even starts”, Jim, a new student in the faculty of Law, explained. “I think that making friends this way is easier than in a classroom.” Refkka, who is starting her studies in Health Policy and Management, was pleasantly surprised by how much the programme challenged her to reflect on herself. “I honestly didn’t expect to explore myself this much or be this inspired.” she contemplated. “I also connected with so many people and ended up spending time with them after the activities were over.” Jim and Refkka were already friends before taking part in the Pre-academic Programme but that didn’t stop them from making new friends, having dinner together as a group and going out in the city once the third day of the programme was done.
When asked what their favourite part of the programme was, both Jim and Refkka brought up stories shared by student assistants in lectures. “The student assistants told their own stories in individual lectures and really brought up a lot of emotions in me.” Jim said and Refkka agreed; “The stories were beautiful because they really reminded us that even though we are different, we can still find strength in each other.”
Thanks to the Pre-academic Programme, both students are now ‘even more excited’ to start their studies at Erasmus University, and think that everyone should take part in the programme. As it now exists, the programme is only available to Dutch-speaking students but according to Waleson, the dream would be to expand it: “We have high ambitions about this programme and believe that such a programme should also be made available to international students to better prepare them for academia.” For the time being, however, there exist no concrete plans about a preparatory programme for international students.